By Susan Redden
Norm Hayward and his wife, Claudia, have a couple of things going for them as they continue their increasingly expensive motor home trip around parts of the United States.
For starters, the Phoenix, Ariz., couple are saving on hotel costs.
Then there’s this:
“I’ve got some Exxon Mobil stock; it’s going through the roof,” Hayward said half-jokingly on Wednesday as the couple took a break and walked their dog at the Missouri Department of Transportation rest stop west of Joplin.
Hayward said owning the oil company’s stock doesn’t make him any more appreciative of gas prices that have climbed about 50 cents a gallon from the $3.35 they paid when they left Phoenix. The couple are traveling to Ohio and Virginia to visit relatives, and he said they may end up spending as much as $3,000 for gasoline by the time they get home.
“We’ve spent $600 so far,” he said.
Michael Right, spokesman for the car lobbying group AAA in St. Louis, said the jump in gas prices in Joplin and other parts of the country stems primarily from the shutdown of some major oil refineries in the Midwest for a variety of reasons, including maintenance.
Because other parts of the state rely on a different supply network, prices are far lower in southeast Missouri — $3.19 per gallon in Dexter, for example.
“Most gas is distributed by pipeline, and most of the product that comes into eastern Missouri comes out of the Gulf,” Right said. “Missouri enjoys some of the lowest gas prices in the nation. It’s not unusual for the state to be among the top three lowest. Right now we’re 30th, but it’s a temporary situation, and as soon as the refineries get back up and running, we should see it drop.”
In parts of Missouri on Thursday, gas was $3.80 per gallon, compared with $3.29 a year ago, Right said.
Statewide, the average gas price was $3.64 on Wednesday.
On Thursday, prices fell a few cents, to $3.79 per gallon at some Joplin stations. Average prices were about $3.70 per gallon in Miami, Okla., and $3.92 in Pittsburg, Kan.
Another factor affecting local prices is gasoline taxes and excise taxes. Those taxes total 17 cents per gallon in Oklahoma, 17.3 cents in Missouri, 21.8 cents in Arkansas and 25 cents in Kansas.
Elsewhere around the Midwest, other cities have been hit harder. Gas prices in Minneapolis last week were $4.27 per gallon.
Hayward said he and his wife had talked about visiting family a year ago, but they dropped the idea because of the high gas prices at that time. After they made their travel plans to start just before Memorial Day this year, prices started to climb.
“We talked to family about the prices and checked the Internet,” he said. “The lowest we’ve paid was $3.69 at a Sam’s Club in Amarillo (Texas). It makes me want to boycott (oil companies).”
Other travelers in Joplin this week also bemoaned the high gas prices locally.
“We paid $4 a gallon at Muskogee (Okla.); it was $3.71 in Des Moines (Iowa) last Sunday,” said Charles Lincoln, of Des Moines, who was driving family members from Dallas to Humansville, Mo.
Lincoln said he prefers to drive, despite the price.
“You find ways to conserve,” he said. “You tune your car up and keep your speed down.”
Kathleen Brooks, of Galveston, Texas, also stopped through Joplin on a trip this week.
“Gas was $3.20 when we left,” she said. “I can’t believe how expensive it is. It’s totally not justified.”
Right said the Midwest is getting the worst of gas prices right now.
“If they want to save money, they need to head south,” he said. “But this is a temporary situation, and it looks like prices are leveling off.”
NATIONWIDE, AAA is predicting that about 35 million people will travel over the Memorial Day weekend, down slightly from a year ago, said spokesman Michael Right. About 31.2 million are expected to travel by car, which is up slightly from a year ago, he said.